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Christmas Around The Globe ? Discover Something New

Dec 19, 2016

Tis the season to deck the halls and sing the 12 days of Christmas. Or as normal people say – it’s Christmas! It’s time to break out the mince pies and mulled wine, put up your tree and cover your house in flashing lights to celebrate this special time of year. But while we celebrate in our own way, have you ever wondered how other people around the world celebrate Christmas? Well wonder no more, because we’ve found some of the most interesting and in some cases downright bizarre ways that different cultures celebrate Christmas, just for you.



In South Korea, Christmas is an official public holiday and taken off work by many. However, there aren’t many Christians in South Korea, so traditions, decorations and other celebrations are quite rare. In North Korea however, Christmas is completely banned, with no one allowed to decorate or celebrate in any way. Even South Koreans who are living near the DMZ aren’t allowed to put up outdoor Christmas trees or decorations to abide by this law.


Russia & The Ukraine 

In Russia and the Ukraine, Christmas is not celebrated on the 25th of December at all. Instead it is celebrated on the 7th of January, as this is the ‘day of epiphany’. On the 29th of November, many Russians will gather together to say a special prayer before they begin a 39 day fast, which ends when the first night star appears on the 6th of January (Christmas Eve). They then gather together again and enjoy a twelve-course feast in honour of the twelve apostles.


Ethiopia And Eritrea 

Christmas in Ethiopia and Eritrea starts off much like the traditions in Russia and the Ukraine. Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January and Christians fast for 40 days beforehand. At dawn on Christmas morning they dress in white and head down to the church, where they hold colourful musical celebrations. These involve priests dressed in their best robes and performing rituals, including dancing, playing drums and other musical instruments. In the afternoon, a traditional game of Gena (a type of hockey) is held in the village - a tribute to the sheppards, who played the game at night while they tended their flocks on the night Jesus was born. The Christmas holiday is then followed by the three-day festival of Timkat, which starts on the 19th of January and celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ.



In many regions of France, the Christmas celebrations start on St Nicholas day, which is the 6th of December. During these celebrations children get sweets and gifts, and the cities and houses are decorated with trees and lights. On Christmas eve, instead of a stocking children will put their polished shoes out in front of the chimney, in hopes that ‘Père Noël’ (Father Christmas) will fill the shoes with sweets. On Christmas Day, families get together in large groups for a feast and to exchange presents.



For over 40 years, the town of Gavle in Sweden has erected a giant goat made of straw to mark the beginning of the holiday season, Traditionally, every year vandals do everything they can to burn down or destroy the goat before Christmas Day. People even disguise themselves as Santa Clause or elves to get past the guardians and set the monument on fire. Since 1966 the straw goat has only survived until Christmas Day 10 times.



In Greenland, they enjoy decorations and festivities much like ours in the UK, but instead of our traditional turkey, ham with cranberry sauce and mince pies, Kiviak is their favourite Christmas dish. Kiviak is made from the raw flesh of auk’s (a native small bird), which has been wrapped in a seal skin and placed under a rock for several months until it’s well into decomposition. They will often place several auk carcasses within a single skin to intensify the flavour, and the dish is eaten raw.  Mattak, which is whale skin with a strip of blubber inside, is also served as a traditional dish during celebrations.


So there you have it, just a selection of the ways other cultures celebrate Christmas. If you prefer a more UK based celebration, why not join us for an evening of mulled wine, ice skating and mince pies at Winchester Cathedrals fantastic Christmas market. Enjoy a 50-minute session on the ice, warm up with some mulled wine and nibbles and enjoy browsing the traditional market stalls full of unusual crafts and gifts. But book your place now, as spaces are filling fast!


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